Thousands show their support for live music in Maleny

By Mitch Gaynor and Sonia Isaacs Clark

THERE has been an incredible groundswell of community support as the future of live music nights at Maleny Lane have been called into question, after the Sunshine Coast Regional Council issued a letter of demand to local organisers. Hundreds of people gathered in support outside the venue on Easter Monday and thousands have signed an online petition prompted after the Council directed organisers of Maleny Lane and the Front Up Chalkboard Club to effectively cease live music at the outdoor venue by May 6.

One of the key organisers, Steve McLeish, said while he was astounded by the community support, he was keen to negotiate a win-win solution with the Council to keep the arts and community enhancing cultural projects alive in Maleny.

While he acknowledged that there had previously been a few residential noise complaints mitigated with installation of a soundproof wall, it appeared the popular live Monday and Friday music nights had recently come under fire again prompting a written directive from the Council’s Planning Department. One of the concerns is family friendly music events may have expanded beyond their outdoor venues licence due to not fitting into the ‘correct box’ of the current planning scheme.

Mr McLeish told GC&M News that the directive gave organisers three choices: to either stop music altogether, take it somewhere else, or put in a development application for a change of use which meant seeking a nightclub licence which he said was not what the music nights were about.

“During the conversation we had with the Planning Department they refused to meet with us and said that the only real option we have is for the music to be closed down. I’ve had well over 200 letters of support and two barristers have offered to donate their time, so we have some really quite skilled people that are helping us with this issue,” said Mr McLeish.

Mr McLeish is now working with a solicitor to draft an interim response seeking an extension to the May 6 action date, and is keen to seek a medium to long term solution.

“What it’s about is more broadly arts in regional communities and keeping the arts alive, the whole of Maleny Lane has been community-driven. The council has had forums about how they’re fully supporting the arts, but they haven’t paid a cent, they haven’t contributed anything,” said Mr McLeish.

“I’m hoping this will be a catalyst for positive change,” said Mr McLeish. “We would love to see Council support us and help establish an Arts Precinct here.”

Division 5 Councillor Winston Johnston said he was aware of the issue. “I’ve met with the principals and other interested parties and made representations to councils Town Planning compliance department, and we are working through the issue,” he said.

The Maleny Chamber of Commerce has expressed its dismay at the potential closure, saying the Front Up Club embodied the town’s creative expression.

Chamber president Spencer Shaw said the limited number of appropriate venues only served to highlight the importance of the Front Up Club.

“The Front Up Club is indicative and crucial in presenting the musical creativity of Maleny and should be supported in every reasonable way by Sunshine Coast Council, in what would be seen as an actual, genuine, expression of support to community, culture, arts and economic development,” he said.

“Maleny Commerce strongly supports this creative venture and urges SCC rapidly reconsider the ‘shutdown’ of live music in Maleny, and believes this would be damaging to our community, culture and economy.”

Greens Spokesperson Andrew McLean told GC&M News if the council forced the venue to close it would “crush the soul of the town”.

A spokesperson for Sunshine Coast Regional Council said it had received several complaints from local residents about the noise from Maleny Lane music events in Maleny.

“Council is currently investigating the lawfulness of these events and will work with the landowner/operator to achieve compliance. Council conducts such investigations in a manner that is objective, fair and impartial, in accordance with the law, and respectful of individuals,” a spokesperson said.